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Friday, 27 January 2012

The Hummingbird Triple Chocolate Cookies

I have been meaning to make these cookies for ages...since the day I laid my eyes on this gorgeous photo in the cookbook. They are black, bitter sweet and chewy. I mean that's every chocaholic's dream isn't it? I'm not a big chcolate eater myself. Reasons being I have an allergy to one of the ingredients in chocolate (i don't know which one) and these are too sinful! So you're probably thinking then why the heck I made these cookies! Well I made them for my friend whom we're going to visit tomorrow. She gifted me this lovely recipe book called The Hummingbird Bakery Book and I absolutely love it. This is the first time I baked these cookies and the responses from my guinea pigs (of course my husband, his friend, our neighbour and my daughter) make me believe that these are quite good and will be making them again.

Ingredients :

Dark Chocolate - 120 gm (about 60% cocoa solids)
Plain Flour - 150 gm
Cocoa - 30 gm sifted
Unsalted Butter - 125 gm (softenend)
Golden Light Sugar - 75 gm
Caster Sugar - 50gm
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Vanilla Extract - 1 tsp
1 Egg
Bicarbonate of Soda - 1 tsp
White/Black Chocolate Chips - 1/2 a bag

Method : 
Heat the oven 170C/Gas3. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and melt in a double broiler or in a bowl kept over a pot of boiling water. Mix the flour, sifted cocoa and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl. 

Whip the softened butter and the two sugars in a bowl attached to a stand mixer or by a handheld electric whisk till light and fluffy.

Crack in the egg and gradually beat in the vanilla extract. Now add the melted chocolate to the butter mixture and give a final whisk. Fold in the dry mix with a wooden spoon or spatula and mix well. 

Line a oven proof tray with greaseproof paper and scoop out the cookie dough and place on the tray about 6 cm apart. I used an ice cream scoop to scoop it out. It gives a perfect round shape. No need to flatten the balls.

Bake in the pre heated oven for 18-20 minutes and until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Turn onto a cooling rack after 5 minutes to let them harden. Keep in an airtight container upto 3 days.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

A Princess Cake and Two Birthdays!

My mother was born on the 19th January many years ago. She was my best friend. She gave birth to me, nourished and nurtured me, educated me and slowly the time came when slowly she turned into my best friend, my favourite companion from being my fairy god mother! I lost her at a very young age when I needed her the most. I became very upset with her for leaving me and still remember complaining to God for taking her away from me and crying myself to sleep. Slowly the years went by and the memories of my mom, though still fresh in my mind, started to get untangled from all the bitterness off the loss. What remained was the sweet scent of my mother's perfume lingering around in my mind as if she's still if she would come and give me a hug anytime of the day.

I became pregnant with a baby girl in 2007. The day I came to know about my pregnancy was probably the happiest day of my life so far. Both me and DH were over joyed and elated, yet scared and nervous about the impending parenthood, which we knew nothing about! The midwife said the Estimated Due Date of the baby's arrival was 3rd of January 2008. Mommies to bes and all you other mommies will know how difficult it is to wait for 37 weeks to lay your eyes on your first child for the first time. And in this case I had to wait not for not only 37 or 40 weeks but 42 weeks and 1 day! 

Yes, my daughter was born on 19th January 2008. A decade after I lost one best friend, I found one. I don't know if I can call this a miracle....all I know is that she's the most precious thing I've ever had in my life. I will never forget the look on DH's face when her tiny little fingers held onto his finger, that tiny little head resting against my wild beating heart, that first toothless smile. All the old painful memories moved far away to make space for these new ones.

And last week this little bundle turned 4. I cannot believe that 4 years have already gone. It seems like yesterday when I first held her in my arms. She's already quite a person. She hates to be called ''Mamma's baby''. She loves pink. She loves Disney Princesses. And yes she demanded a''Pink Princess Cake'' for her birthday party!

               My little Tinkerbell ready for her Fairytale Theme Party.  :)

At first I decided on a store bought cake. But the 'Nice' mom in me screamed at me for being such a cheater. So I spent almost a week researching on recipes and you tube tutorials on how to make a princess cake. I've done this cake before her best friend's birthday party too. Hence the icing wasn't too difficult to do. It's pretty simple actually and I was super happy with the result! T loved her cake, all her friends were quite envious about it and Mommy was glowing after hearing all the praises. A must try for all you mommies who have ''Princess-crazed'' little girls at home!

I did a two layer cake. A traditional Vanilla sponge and another classic Chocolate Vanilla Marble cake with Vanilla buttercream icing. I cheated a little and used store bought icing. 

The recipe of the vanilla cake is adapted from here. (*Note This is not a sponge. The yogurt and eggs in it make it quite moist and dense cake, like a brownie). You can double the amount if you want but the amount mentioned in the recipe is good enough for a 21cm cake tin and makes quite a high cake.

The recipe for the Marble cake has been adapted from here. I increased the amounts to make a large enough cake to fill a 21 cm/8 inch Pyrex dome bowl.The size of the doll will determine the size of your cake. The cake should be high enough to reach the dolls waist.

Ingredients for the Marble cake : 

500 gm softened butter  
500gm caster sugar
6 large eggs or 7 medium eggs
500 gm self-raising flour
8 tbsp milk
2-3 tsp vanilla extract
4-5 tbsp cocoa powder

Method :
Heat oven to 180C/gas 160C/gas 4. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin. Put all the ingredients (except the cocoa powder) into a food processor and whizz for 1-2 mins until smooth.  To mix by hand, beat the butter and sugar together, then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Fold in the flour, milk and vanilla extract until the mixture is smooth.

Divide the mixture between 2 bowls. Stir the cocoa powder into one of the mixtures. Take 2 spoons and use them to dollop the chocolate and vanilla cake mixes into the tin alternately. When all the mixture has been used up tap the bottom on your work surface to ensure that there aren't any air bubbles. Take a skewer and swirl it around the mixture in the tin a few times to create a marbled effect.

Bake the cake for 1 hr 30 mins (for my oven setting your's might be slightly different) until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Turn out onto a cooling rack and leave to cool. Will keep for 3 days in an airtight container or freeze for up to 3 months.

 Ok. Now comes the fun part. Icing! Here's a pictorial step-by-step guide of how to do it. Chill the cakes in the freezer for about 30 mins after letting them to cool completely before you start icing. You can slice each cake horizontally and sandwich them with icing, jam or Nutella. 

Ingredients for the Icing : 

Store bought Vanilla Butter Cream Icing - I used Betty Crocker ones , about 3tubs
Red Food Colour (Use any colour you want)
Edible food decorations like stars, butterflies, sparkles etc ...let your imagination run wild :)

Method : 

Scoop out the butter cream in a big bowl, one tub at a time. Add a few drops of food colour and mix well with a spatula. Add more to get the desired colour if required. 

Bringing everything together :

Cut a hole in the middle of all the cake layers with a medium sized round pastry/cookie cutter/glass or a serrated knife. Scoop a spoonfull of icing onto the cake stand and place the bottom most layer on it. This will ensure that the cake is held at it's place. Now sandwich all the layers with your desired filling. I used the icing itself.

Put a big dollop of icing on the top of the cake and spread it out evenly by spinning the cake stand around using an Icing Spatula or a Palette Knife. You can also use a strip of paper and even out the icing with soft strokes from bottom towards the top. Make sure the whole cake is coated evenly. This is called crumb coating and is done to get rid of the crumbs. Keep the cake in the fridge for 30 minutes.

In the mean time undress the doll and wrap it with cling film. Wrap the hair too.

BTW the hairy hand holding the doll is not mine :p

Take out the cake. Add another dollop of icing on top and work evenly spreading it out. Move your spatula to give swirly patterns on the skirt. Insert the doll into the cake.

Put rest of the icing in a piping bag and using the smallest open star piping tip (Number 13) put small flowers on the bodice of the doll. Cover the front and the back and make sleeves if you want to.

With a bigger Open star tip put stars all around at the bottom of the cake/skirt. I added a few more drops of red colour to the rest of the icing to make a brighter pink icing. With the big Open star tip I added frills around the skirt in 4 layers starting from the waist. And then added a few butterflies and silver studs.

My little girl loved the cake. And she told everybody that her Mommy makes the best cake in the whole wide world.Well I know that's a novelty that's going to wear off pretty soon...but I think I'll hold onto it for now!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Home made 'Ghee' (South-Asian clarified butter)

Ghee is a class of clarified butter that originated in South Asia and is commonly used in South Asian (Indian, Bangladeshi, Nepali and Pakistani) cuisine. Ghee is made by first making butter, and then clarifying it. One begins by boiling cow's milk, then turning off the stove. Once it reaches room temperature, a thick layer of cream is formed on top of the milk.

The cream is removed each day and stored in a container and refrigerated. At the end of the week, the collected cream is brought to room temperature and churned using a wooden churner (kavvam in telugu) or ladle until the butter separates (after approximately 12 to 15 minutes). 3-4 cups of water are added to this and churning continues for a minute or two until the residue is a thick buttermilk. The buttermilk is then strained. The butter (called Maakhan or mukkhan in Hindi and vennapusa in Telugu) is washed in water at least 4-5 times. This thoroughly washed butter can now be used to prepare ghee.

To prepare ghee, the butter is usually melted in a stainless steel vessel over medium high heat. The butter begins to melt, forming a white froth on top. It is then simmered, stirring occasionally and the froth begins to thin slowly and the color of butter changes to a pale yellow shade. Then it is cooked on low heat until it turns a golden color. The residue solids settle at the bottom and the ghee, which is now clear, golden and translucent with a fragrant smell, is ready. The ghee is then filtered, and it will solidify when completely cool. Ghee can be stored for extended periods without refrigeration, provided that it is kept in an airtight container to prevent oxidation and remains moisture-free. The texture, color, or taste of ghee depends on the source of the milk from which the butter was made and the extent of boiling and simmering. -Wiki

But I say we should not have to try so hard and wait so long for making that nice grainy Ghee at home. I'm not a Ghee person but the husband is a sucka for it. Mom-in-Law says everybody in my Dad-in-Law's family are actually. Dad-In-Law used to press down his 'Ghee-Bhaat' with his palm and until the Ghee oozed out through the finger gaps he wasn't satisfied! Thank to my kind Almighty that his son isn't like that coz he definitely doesn't have the intestinal capacity to digest such quantities of fat! 

Anyway going back to preparing Ghee at home, I'm sure many of you already know the recipe and probably have made the Ghee a thousand and one times, I still wanted to share the procedure as I'm quite proud of making and serving home made ghee to my family and friends. It elates me by thinking that I'm one of those women who actually make stuff like this at home...doesn't matter if I serve 'Cook-in-the-micro' packed rice or store bought chapatis with it! 

This recipe was given to me by my dear old friend Anuradha Hamal. She's an excellent cook and makes outta this world Momos along with her husband! Will make the Momos soon...just wish they were as simple and easy to make as this 'Ghee' is! 

Ingredients : 

Unsalted Butter - 500gm

Method :

Put the butter in a wok. Put it on high heat and melt completely.

Keep it on a medium to high flame till bubbles appear on the surface and the butter starts to change colour. Keep on stirring with a clean dry ladle.

At this point it will make loud noise and bubbles will start to burst. DONOT cover it as the excess air needs to vapourise from the butter(to clarify it). Lower the flame and simmer for about 10 minutes. 

Slowly you'll see the milk solids formed on the surface will change colour to dark brown and settle at the bottom of the wok. Don't worry if the Ghee looks dark at this point. It will change colour once it solidifies. 

Strain into a sterilised glass/plastic jar and let it cool. Keep at room temperature. 

This photo is my this week's entry for Susan's BWW

This is how the Ghee will look after it has solidified....a perfect grainy fragrant ghee! :)

Monday, 16 January 2012

Murgir Jhol

It's been freezing for the past few days. Well I say about time!!! This winter it doesn't feel like winter in Cambridge at all. Not that I'm complaining but I'm a bit worried as this only proves that the Global warming is at it's best. If we don't get worried and start working towards the betterment then when would we? I've made a few changes at home and in my kitchen to save some on our bills and also to contribute a little towards the environment. 
Please have a look on the internet so you can research and find out about what's bet for your kitchen and Nature too :). One of the appliances I cannot live without is my Cookworks slowcooker. It's super cheap, economical, no-mess no-fuss use and makes any kind of meat so tender that people keep on asking for the secret tip :). And did I mention the best feature? You can just put your meat in i and forget about it for a few hours. Perfect for those girlie coffee sessions or shopping trips.

Murgir Jhol - Chicken Curry
Recipe by Sohini Biswas, 15th Jan 2012

This is a recipe that I created based on what my mom used to make. Now I don't exactly remember the exact ingredients but the heavenly taste and aroma have been etched in my brain and taste bud and that has helped me to recreate the dish.

Ingredients : 

Chicken - 1 whole cut into medium-small pieces
Potato - 3 large halved (optional)
Onions - 2 large grated coarsely
Ginger Paste - 2tsp
Garlic Paste - 2-3tsp
Tomato - 2 large (I use the canned plum ones)
Yogurt - 1/2 cup
Cumin Powder - 2tsp
Salt - 1and 1/2 tsp
Sugar - 1tsp
Turmeric Powder - 1tsp
Chilli Powder - 2tsp
Tamarind Paste - 1/2 tsp (optional..I use it for the lovely dark colour it adds to the food)
Bay Leaves - 2-3
Bengali Garam Masala - 1tsp
Sunflower oil to cook.
Mustard Oil - 1tbsp (optional)

Method : 

Wash and prick chicken with a fork. Marinade with yogurt, mustard oil and cumin powder for a few hours.

In a pan/wok heat the oil. Fry the potatoes and reserve.

Add the bay leaves and fry for a few seconds. 

Add the onion and fry for a few minutes or till it starts changing colour. Add the ginger-garlic paste and fry well.

Add the tomatoes and cook well for a few minutes till oil separates. Add the salt, sugar, turmeric and chilli powder and cook well.

Add the tamarind paste and cook well. Add the chicken and potatoes and toss to coat them with the masala paste. Add a 2 cups of hot water and mix well. Put it in the slow cooker with more hot water(refer to the manufacturer's handbook). Mine normally takes about 3 hrs to cook chicken.

You can cook it in the pan/wok by covering it in case you don't want to use the slowcooker. In that case cook for 30 mins or until the meat and potatoes are thoroughly cooked and tender. Add the garam masala. Serve hot with steamed/boiled rice.

This unattractive photo is how the chicken looked straight out of the slowcooker :D Sorry about the photos By the time I finished cooking and styling the sun was down (Thanks to the limited daylight hours during the winter months!) and had click the photos under the dining light. 

* Here's what I found out after doing some research on energy saving -

Monday, 9 January 2012

Aloo Paratha/Stuffed Indian Flatbreads

We had a very calm and relaxing weekend. Which was a much needed one if you ask me. The past 3 months have been crazy and all we want is a little rest, some real serious DIY to get the house ready for the spring and summer and some exercise. Well the last one is a must! We have been hogging on food all this time and we're not even feeling that guilty...yes we are such shameless creatures I tell you :p. Both me and DH are hopeless suckas for good food so nothing else really matters!

We had a fabulous New Year's eve and an awesome party. We danced, sang, ate and drank and in a completely glorified drunken state we all declared our resolutions. Mine were :

1. To lose weight and become as gorgeous as Raveena Tandon(have you seen her recent pics?)
2. Finding myself a new job ASAP
3. Less facebooking and more blogging
4. Don't remember :/

So the weekend gone was all about having some sinful calorie loaded food as I have started my strict weekly exercise regime from today(let's hope I can stick to it for sometime). I was quite ashamed to see that 10 minutes of brisk walking left me panting and gasping and seeing stars in the bright daylight. Damn the devil in disguise. We normally have oats for breakfast everyday during the week so on weekends my husband generally demands Indian breakfasts. Making Alu Parathas early in the morning on a Saturday is no less than building a working rocket I tell you. In fact I'd rather do the latter!

And I do need to spend less time on the internet. I had become a Facebook addict and slowly rehabbing myself out of it. I have come across some gorgeous blogs recently. Their presentation and photography are mind blowing. Please do have a look at them.

Aloo Parathas/Indian Flatbreads with Stuffed Potatoes


For the stuffing -

Potatoes - 3-4 medium
Onion - 1 large sliced
Salt - 1tsp or more if required
Cumin powder or ground cumin - 1tsp
Corriander powder or ground corrainder - 1/2 tsp
Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp or more according to your own taste and palate

 For the bread dough -

Whole wheat flour - 4 cups
Yogurt - 1 cup
Corriander leaves - 1 cup
Salt - 1 tsp
Chilli Powder - 1tsp
Cumin powder or ground cumin - 1tsp
Water - about 1 cup

Oil to fry


For the stuffing -

Peel, boil and mash the potatoes. Fry the onions with a tsp of oil till just about translucent.

No mash and mix the potatoes with the fried onions and all the spices for the stuffing. Taste the seasoning for salt.

Keep in an airtight container and keep aside.

For the dough -

Put all the ingredients except the water listed under the dough in a food processor and whisk it. Add the water gradually while whisking till it forms a semi soft dough.

Now take the dough out in a large mixing bowl and knead it with your hands to make it into a soft dough.

Keep in an airtight container.

* You can make the stuffing and dough a day in advance and refrigerate them.

Method for the parathas :

Divide the dough into equal sized balls. Each ball should be of a tennis ball size. Flatten each of them with your palm.

Scoop an ice cream scoop size of stuffing on each flattened dough ball and seal them by forming a semi circle. And then bring the two ends together by forming a parcel or a ball again(they should look like wantons/dumplings).

Sprinkle some flour on the worktop and roll the balls on a plate of flour too. With the help of a rolling pin flatten the balls. This is a difficult task especially you have skill level like I do :). You have to make sure the stuffing stays inside and all the sides are of equal thickness.

Heat oil in a frying pan and shallow fry each parathas. Stack them up to keep warm. Serve them with Cucumber and Mint Raita.

Cucumber Mint Raita

This raita is perfect as an accompaniment with almost everything or even on its own. Serve it with parathas or as a spread on rusks or as a cooler.

Ingredients :

Cucumber - 1/2 cup grated (reserve the juice)
Greek style yogurt - 1 cup (you can use hung natural yogurt too)
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Sugar - 1/2 tsp
Freshly ground cumin - 1/2 tsp
Mint leaves - about 10 leaves
Mustard Seeds - 1/2 tsp
Dry red chillies - 2
1 tsp oil for tempering

Method :

Whisk the yogurt, mint leaves, grated cucumber, the cucumber juice with a hand whisk Leave to stand for a few minutes.

Heat oil in a pan and add the chillies and mustard seeds. Take off heat when the seeds start spluttering. Add this to the yogurt mix.

Sprinkle in the cumin, salt and sugar and mix roughly. Serve cool.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Curried Sunny Side Ups

I cannot believe that another year has gone by! This last year has gone by too fast if you ask me, perhaps because it was a busy one. We had lots of guests staying over through out the year, we had two visits to India and of course had to sort out the new house too. So in short we didn't even realise how quick the year just went by until about today when I was finally taking the calendars down in order to recycle 12 pages of our lives. I was just going through the dates in order to write down the anniversaries(Facebook takes care of the birthdays) and suddenly realised that my baby is going to turn 4 this year. I couldn't believe it. It seems like yesterday when she was born, a red faced not too small bundle of joy :).

So the nostalgic Mommy in me decided to make her favourite dish today. A bong style poached egg curry. She started eating this preparation in India and immediately fell in love with it. There it was a compulsion as the maid at my Dad's house doesn't know any other bong egg curry recipe. She makes this almost every time we ask her to make egg and though we are not huge fans but I was quite surprised to see that Little T didn't mind. Infact even though she's not a ''curry'' person she is quite fond of this recipe. I, on the other hand, love anything that has eggs and garlic in it :p.

This is a very simple dish, easy to make and perfect with Chapatis/Mishti Pulao.

Deem-er MalpuarKaalia
Curried Eggs - Sunny Side Up


Eggs - 4 poached
Onions - 2 large chopped
Ginger - 1tsp minced
Garlic - 1tsp
Tomato - 1 plum peeled and chopped (I use canned ones)
Vinegar - 1tsp
Sugar - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
Chilli Powder - 1/2 tsp (Optional)
Cumin Powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt - 1tsp
Garam Masala (Bengali style) - 1/2 tsp * Read notes
A cup of water
Ghee - 1tsp(Optional)

Method :

Heat oil in a pan/wok. Fry the onions till translucent.

Add the minced ginger and garlic and fry till they are cooked and release a nice aroma.

Add the tomatoes and vinegar and cook and mix well. Reduce the flame to low.

Add the spices(except the garam masala), salt and sugar and mix well. In the meantime boil 1 cup of water separately.

Add water and bring to boil. Add the poached eggs, cover and cook on low flame for 10 minutes or till the eggs are cooked thoroughly.  Take the cover off and reduce the gravy to a dry consistency.

Add the Garam Masala and cover and leave to stand for 5 mins. Add a teaspoon of ghee.

*Notes :  Bengali Garam Masala is slightly different to its other regional counterparts. To make Bengali Garam Masala you'll need : 
Green Cardamom - 6
Cloves - 4-5
Cinnamon Stick - 1 inch

Dry roast all the above ingredients and grind to a fine powder. You can use larger quantities and store them in an air tight spice jar for months.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

An Apple Upside Down Cake to welcome 2012 :)

Hope all you guys had lovely winter holidays! We took it easy during the Christmas. We stayed at home, ate lots of good food, drank even more nice and mulled wine and watched films back to back. Little T has started to understand films and she loved watching some of them like Ice Age series, Disney Princess ones and yes she especially loves ''Horton Hears a Who''! Jim Carrey was excellent as the voice of Horton and it was quite hilarious as expected :). A good watch for the young ones and the adults who need a good laugh!

We had a New Years party planned at home and I planned to make an Apple cake for everybody. I was quite bored of making the same chocolate brownies, pineapple upside down cake and victorian sandwiches so wanted to bake something different. Though I never got around to bake it for the party as I had too many other things to do and finally managed to bake it yesterday. I have never baked an apple cake before as I'm not a big fan myself. I was in for a surprise after I finished baking this one. The aroma that filled the house was amazing and the cake tasted quite divine too. I used Bramleys for the cake which were quite tangy. You can replace it with Sweet Galas or Golden Delicious if you want. 

Apple Upside Down Cake


For the Topping:

Any cooking variety Apples - about 4 medium peeled, cored and cut into wedges (every quarter into two wedges)
Butter - 50gm
Golden Caster Sugar - 50gm
Cinnamon Dust/Powder - 1/2tsp

For the Cake:
Self Raising flour - 200gm
Butter - 200gm
Golden Caster Sugar - 200gm
Baking Powder - 1tsp
Eggs - 2 medium
Vanilla Extract - 1tsp
Milk - 2tbsp (or more to loosen the batter)
1tbsp butter or margarine for greasing the cake tin.

This photo goes to Susan's Black and White Wednesday. :)

Method :

For the Topping:

Heat the butter for the topping in a pan and add the apple wedges. 
Fry for a few seconds.
Add the sugar kept for the topping and let it melt. 
Add the cinnamon.
Let the sugar and spice coat the apple pieces nicely.
In the meantime grease a 21cm cake springform cake tin. No need to line it.
Line the apple pieces on the bottom of the tin.

For the Cake:

Preheat the oven at 180°C/gas4.
Cream the butter and sugar with a electric mixer. 
Mix the flour and the baking powder in a separate bowl.
Whisk the eggs separately. 
Slowly pour in the eggs and the creamed butter sugar mix into the flour and fold well. 
Add the vanilla extract and required amount of milk to loosen up the batter. 
It should have a dropping consistency.
Pour the batter on top of the apple pieces.Tap the tin on the worktop for a smooth surface.
If using a spring form tin then place the tin on a baking tray as liquid might come out while baking.
Bake in the oven for about 1 hour 20 mins. Check by inserting a skewer at a few spots.The cake's done if the skewer comes out clean every time.
Leave to stand for 5 minutes and turn out onto a plate. Using a spring form tin will help at this step.

Little T has started going to a new pre school and is loving it. I didn't have any worries about that though as she's quite sociable. In fact she was upset to come back home after school on the first day :). Here's a piece of cake to the first post in this new year. I hope I'll be able to do more blogging and a little less of facebooking this year ;). Wish you all another rocking year ahead!